FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – It is one of the very best days of the year for any NFL team, which helps explain why Adam Gase couldn’t wait for Wednesday to get here.
“The last couple days have seemed like forever,” the Jets’ first-year coach said. “Everybody in this building is excited. Everybody is ready to get going. Everybody in the building — some good juice in the building right now.”
Gase is as enthused and optimistic as anyone.
“We’re going to play meaningful games at the end of November and December,” he proclaimed at Wednesday morning’s news conference.
Second-year quarterback Sam Darnold is equally encouraged.
“There is enough talent on this roster to be a playoff contender,” he said, quickly adding that he and his teammates need to maintain a “one-week-at-a-time mentality.”
But the expectation remains the same.
“A lot of wins,” he said.
“The whole building you can kind of sense almost a rebirth,” he said. “As long as you have that good energy, we can win with that.”
It’s a welcome change for the Jets, especially with Darnold now entering his second season after a promising rookie year and the Jets adding prominent free-agent additions Le’Veon Bell, C.J. Mosley and Jamison Crowder and the drafting of Quinnen Williams and Jachai Polite. Gase, Darnold and everyone else in the building are entitled to look forward with hope, because there really is hope.
Yet there is also the reality of that hope being tempered by the team that has ruined so many Jets seasons in the past two decades, the team that will almost certainly dictate New York’s fate as much or more than the Jets themselves.
As long as Bill Belichick is still the coach and Tom Brady is still the quarterback for the Patriots, no amount of optimism at 1 Jets Drive will change the calculus that the path to the playoffs and a potential Super Bowl championship for the first time in more than half a century still goes through Foxborough.
Belichick and Brady are coming off their sixth Super Bowl championship after yet another remarkable run last season, and the Patriots are once again the favorites to get back this season. Belichick is 66 and entering his 20th season as the Patriots’ coach — man, did that go quickly — and Brady is about to turn 42 and ready for his 19th season as the Patriots’ starter.
But age has not deterred either man. Belichick is still the smartest man in football — in football history, as a matter of fact — and Brady still has command of the Patriots’ offense, even if time has taken something off his fastball.
Gase has three years’ experience going against Belichick, having beaten him twice, so there is no need to remind the former Dolphins coach that it’s Belichick’s division to lose.
“You know they’re there,” he said. “It’s what’s being talked about most of the time in the offseason.”
The bottom line for Gase? “We need to worry about handling our business,” he said. “We need to do a good job.”
Gase will get a glimpse of how far he needs to go to conquer Belichick and Brady when the Jets face the Patriots in a Week 3 matchup in Foxborough and then again in a prime-time meeting Oct. 21 at MetLife Stadium.
In the meantime, there is plenty of work to be done, which is the only way the good feelings at the start of training camp will translate into the only thing that matters for any football team: How it all ends on the final Sunday of the playoffs.